McALESTER, Okla. — Some landowners in Kiowa, McAlester and Krebs recently received a letter from the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management’s Oklahoma Field Office asking them to participate in a survey regarding possible future surface coal mining.
The letters were signed by BLM’s Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas Field Manager Robert Pawelek.
Pawelek said the letters are meant to be informative and were sent to 17,000 Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas landowners asking if they were interested in having their land considered for future surface mining for mining companies.
“We are not in the coal mining business,” Pawelek said. “We only manage federal mineral rights for Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.”
Pawelek added the survey is part of the overall development of the BLM’s Resource Management Plan to create a map of possible acreage and mining locations.
“We want to know the potential availability for mining in the future,” Pawelek said. “As part of our Resource Development Plan, we are required to have data in our appendix to show future development opportunities.”
McAlester attorney Pat Layden, of the Pat Layden Law Firm, is representing the municipalities of Kiowa, Krebs and Savanna and said they are objecting to the possibility of future coal mining in city limits.
“All three towns are taking the position that this is an attempt to expand strip mining or surface mining which citizens in town do not want,” Layden said. “On behalf of Kiowa, Savanna and Krebs, we are responding that we do not want surface or strip mining in city limits.”
Layden said he encourages individual landowners who do not want to lease out their land to respond to the letter indicating they do not want the federal government or any mining companies to strip mine on their property.
Land advocate Candice Slavens-Crutchfield, of Kiowa, has been a landman for more than 23 years and said she is concerned for landowners in Pittsburg County and surrounding areas.
“My personal concern is the government coming in and trying to take over public and private land for special interest groups,” Slavens-Cructhfield said. “Mining will not create more jobs or boost the economy; they will use huge machines that take the place of 100 people and we will lose our farmland if we allow this to happen.”
Slavens-Crutchfield said letters were received on Dec. 8 and a response is expected to be sent by Jan. 6.
“They sent the letters out to us looking like junk mail and most land owners are throwing the letters away before opening them,” Slavens- Crutchfield said.
The letter states that if land owners do not respond by Jan. 6 “the suitability of these coal deposits for mining by other than underground mining techniques (i.e. surface coal mining) will default to the BLM’s determination finding as part of its coal suitability screening process”
Kiowa landowner Kenneth Battles said he is also opposed to strip mining.
“It is very important that everyone is informed on the tremendous effects mining can have on the infrastructure in the county,” Battles said. “It will affect the water, gas and power lines, as well as, rural water.”
Battles added that mining can damage pasture land and mining company’s will not restore it.
“It would be very expensive to fix and we should protect our land,” Battles said. “I am in favor of taking care of our natural resources that we are blessed with.”
Battles said he strongly encourages everyone who received a letter to fill it out and send it and those who did not receive a letter to stay informed.
“Even if you live in town it does not mean mining won’t affect you,” Battles added.
The Oklahoma Department of Mines Chief Financial Officer Media Relations Contact Suzen M. Rodesney sent the McAlester News-Capital an email regarding the BLM survey.
The email stated:
The BLM survey is a standard solicitation for mining type preference (underground only or surface and underground) of surface landowners (qualified landowners only: those with primary residence on the land, directly work effected land, or gets a significant income from land etc.). This solicitation for preference is being done by BLM to complete a general Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on federal coal in Oklahoma/Texas/Kansas area. The last EIS done for the state appears to be some years ago (1990s). Before the BLM can do future lease sales, a completed EIS must be on file.
The Oklahoma Department of Mines is in the process of issuing a permit for the surface effect of a planned underground coal mining permit to Love Coal. The Love Coal permit #4292, in LeFlore County, will be issued this week by the Oklahoma Department of Mines with a “no surface disturbance” condition until the full performance bond is posted. A holding bond has been posted while the full bond amount is being acquired. There cannot be any underground mining conducted until they have a mining plan approved by MSHA and the Oklahoma Underground Coal Mining Advisory Board.
A revision to an existing underground coal permit has been requested by GCI ( Georges Collier Incorporated), which is located in the Spiro area. This revision is for the expansion of the underground mining area only. The GCI 4243F underground permit pending revision #1998F is currently under review by the Technical Services division of the Oklahoma Department of Mines. No issue date can be determined at this time.
The current BLM Survey is not related to the two pending Oklahoma permits – Love and the GCI underground extension.
Contact Lacey Sudderth at firstname.lastname@example.org